Friday, November 25, 2016

Foretelling and Qumran

In his work about the Jewish war of the first century C.E., the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus writes the following on the Essenes:
There are some among them who profess to foretell the future, being versed from their early years in holy books, various forms of purification and apothegms of prophets; and seldom, if ever, do they err in their predictions.
This description is usually taken as a confirmation of the identification of the Essenes with the Qumran community. The testimony is, however, not quite so clear. Josephus has in mind an active ability to prophesy about contemporary events, and in his main work, the Jewish Antiquities, he adduces various examples of Essene predictions that were fulfilled. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls never speak in this manner. Quite the opposite: the Qumran community appears to have stuck to what is found in Neh 6 and Zech 13, regarding their contemporaries as “false” prophets. It is no coincidence that a list of the names of “false” prophets was found at Qumran. This enumeration of well-known prophets from the biblical tradition was possibly augmented with a contemporary prophet. Unfortunately, the text is too damaged to be able to say anything certain.—The Prophets of Israel, page 91

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